Sunday, December 31, 2017

Indulgence Meals: BMI = 29.5

Once a week I like to indulge in one of the foods that I used to drive my BMI up to 43. This week my choice was an A&W Teen Burger. To my mind, the Teen Burger is the ultimate Canadian burger. I love how the fat from the beef and cheese coats the inside of my mouth. I love how the onion and bacon linger on my breath. There is a thick slice of tomato hiding in there that makes the burger seem even juicier than it already is. The pickles and sauce give this burger some sweetness and tang.

I notice these subtleties more palpably now that I only eat like this once a week. The mood boost that I find in comfort foods is now more poignant than ever but I’m not desperate for it all the time because I am no longer starved of micronutrients. On my days off, I reserve the right to have one beer in the afternoon, if I so choose.

A nice cold glass of frothy beer in the middle of the afternoon is a delight that I allow myself once or twice a week. In the evenings I have red wine although I do need to curb that habit a bit. My point here is that comfort foods or a nice frothy glass of beer can be enjoyed once in a while as long as they don’t start replacing your core nutrition. As long as my other 20 meals are balanced, my BMI continues to slowly descend even though I enjoy a slice of pizza, a burger, or any other reasonable portion of comfort food once a week.

It’s becoming routine for me to seek out 2 servings of fruit/veggie, 2 servings of whole grains, and one serving of lean meat for lunch/dinner. If I go for a salad, I make sure to have whole grain bread with it, or I make croutons out of some Ryvita wafers. Rather than lettuce, I prefer to stuff my salads with broccoli, carrot, cabbage, tomato and red pepper. For a ‘vinaigrette’ I mix a bit of oil, apple cider vinegar, and Dijon – no added sugars.

Topped with some roast beef and sambal, this healthy, balanced meal was almost as pleasing as the Teen Burger. Ok, ‘almost’ might be an overstatement. It was about half as exciting as the Teen Burger, but still very pleasing.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Inverted Diet II: BMI = 29.6

You take off a few pounds but then it all comes back. It seems that the only way to slim down is to live in starvation. I know, I’ve been there and got the t-shirt. Then I needed a bigger t-shirt, so I just repeated the process. It’s embarrassing to admit that I fell into that cycle because I know, as a cook, how to prepare a balanced diet.

When I got so heavy that a little slip on the ice left me crushed by my own weight (I now miss 50% of one of my vertebrae), I finally had to face the truth. Facing that truth hurt more than my injury. When I honestly audited my diet and then looked to the Canada Food Guide to review the structure of a healthy diet, I had to admit to myself that my diet was upside down.

I got most of my calories from fat, sugar, and low-fibre carbs. Veggies were just a garnish on my plate. If I ate a serving of whole-grains in a day, then it was because I wasn’t paying attention. It’s no wonder I couldn’t lose any weight – I was malnourished. The best analogy I can think of is that bilge pumps won’t help you if your boat is capsized. If your diet is upside-down, then you’ll be so starved of nutrition that you can’t possibly expect a short-term stunt diet to do anything for you.

I honestly thought that I would never overcome my cravings for calorie-dense snack foods. I couldn’t understand why snack chips and dips were so compelling to me. The fact is that I lost my instincts to seek out veggies and whole grains. Those healthy foods would only bring me relief if I ate them regularly whereas foods like deep-fried onion rings made me feel good instantly. Well, they made me feel good for the duration I was eating them, at least, but they were making me sick, fat, and unhappy in the long-run.

I just couldn’t imagine that my groceries would ever again look like the photo above. I had stopped buying decent groceries because I knew I would just end up throwing out all the fruits and veggies after they went bad. Up-righting my diet was very hard because I had to break many bad habits and then learn to eat my veggies again. Now that my diet is back upright, and very balanced (most of the time), the cravings for unhealthy food and late-night snacks have all but vanished.

My meals are now huge but free of added sugars, processed meats, and fried food. I try to get at least 2 servings of whole grains and 2 servings of fruits/veggies in every meal. Once I got into the habit of stuffing myself with healthy, balanced meals, I was no longer starving and driven to seek out comfort from calorie-dense junk-food.

I know how scary it is to think of the prospect of living life without comfort foods (most of the time) but I promise you that I feel so much better that I no longer crave comfort foods (most of the time). My weekly indulgence meals bring me far more satisfaction than eating that food every day of the week.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Inverted Diet: BMI = 29.7

I’ve identified a diet that can radically alter your metabolism, change your life, and drastically alter your energy levels. I call it the ‘Inverted Diet’. If you are excited the hear about it, then it is likely that you are already following it.

The basics are simple. You take a balanced diet, as recommended by your doctor, and then you turn it upside down. They tell you to get most of your calories from whole grains? Well then, seek out most of your calories in low fibre carbs like sugar and Wonder Bread. If the egg-heads tell you to eat a LOT of veggies, well then avoid veggies and eat a lot of processed meat. I should warn you that the results can be rather extreme.

I managed to put on 150 lbs using that diet. It wasn’t easy; it took ten years. It took a long time to get out of the habit of eating fruits and veggies, and it actually took effort to start eating pizza for breakfast and sugary cereal before bed, but I totally inverted my diet. I don’t have any photos of my most extreme results, but the above photo should give you an idea of where it went – a BMI of 43.

At my worst, I compulsively snacked all day, trying to find some energy and hopefully a bit of comfort for my chronic pain. I felt like crap, couldn’t get up on time to cook breakfast, slept on the bus to work, and generally exhibited a bad mood. It didn’t help that I took a big cut in pay for moving to a province where my English was not appreciated yet few people would tell me the local translation of even the most basic kitchen essentials.

I’m not even obese in that photo – I’m just overweight. When they fitted me for that back brace I was 105 lbs heavier. Anyway, I used to skip meals to try to take off a few lbs. I never checked the scale because I knew I wasn’t losing anything in the long run. The Inverted Diet is like that – the more you try to lose weight, the more you gain.

My road to recovery didn’t require ‘balancing my diet’, I had to outright upright the damn capsized catastrophe that I called a diet.

I had to eliminate the added sugars, processed meat, and fried foods (especially deep fried). I didn’t need to eat less – I needed to eat more; vegetables and whole grains. I did need to eat less sugar, fat, fried foods, and meat, but I didn’t need a stunt diet. I needed the Canada Food Guide. I simply needed to get off the Inverted Diet and onto a balanced diet as recommended by Health Canada.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Self-Discipline: BMI = 29.8

My biggest fear when I set out to conquer my obesity was whether I could develop the discipline to walk past the yummy foods that taunted me, or whether they would torture me for the rest of my life. I asked myself if it would be worth living in a perpetual state of self-denial to be healthy and I have to say that prospect left me pessimistic.

I loved eating and the companionship of sharing a great meal. I think that I grew up associating great food with love, affection, and friendship. Even now that my core diet is very healthy, I really enjoy splitting a quesadilla with my workmates. Only yesterday I found some dill pickle dip at work and was compelled to taste it with some snack chips.

I really don’t have any more self-discipline than before I started this adventure, although two things have changed. The first change is that I now notice, instantly, when I start to nibble and can tell myself “NO” for the next hour or two. That voice continues to grow stronger in my head each time I heed it. The second change is that I am much more readily satisfied with a moderate snack. I don’t need to slather sour cream and guacamole on my quesadillas to enjoy them and I don’t need to eat 1000 calories of them to find satisfaction. After I tasted that left-over dill pickle dip with 3 snack chips, I was satisfied.

I attribute these changes to my ‘snack timer’ technique and my hearty breakfast. Learning to tell myself “NO” for an hour, then 1.5 hours, then two hours, built up another internal voice in my decision-making inner debates. As long as I exercise that voice once in a while by telling myself, “timer ON, one hour,” it continues to get stronger. It gets easier everyday to heed that voice because I’m no longer starving. As much as I used to eat, I wasn’t eating a balanced diet, and so I was starved of essential nutrients. Ever starved of essential nutrients, I couldn’t resist the urge for calorie dense foods.

Now that I eat a very balanced, and very hearty breakfast, I don’t show up at work fatigued and hungry. At the end of my shift I don’t panic and grab some deep-fried chicken strips because I know that I am coming home to a monster meal of mostly whole grains and vegetables.

If, in between, once or twice a week, I split a quesadilla with some great workmates, but also make sure there are some veggies in there, avoid the sour cream and guacamole, and keep the portion down to 400 calories, well then the rest of my diet seems to be compensating. Just look at my BMI on each post since I started adding one decimal place; continual progress. Yes, I had 3 chips with dip because I am weak; but that used to be a giant-sized party bag with a half litre of dip.

I don’t have the discipline to avoid all temptations yet. On the other hand, I am not tortured by the foods I used to love because I still eat them – I just don’t binge anymore. My core diet now is not calorie-dense, which makes it bulky, so I just can’t eat a whole pizza or giant-sized bag of snack chips anymore. I’ve also developed an aversion to sugar. Last night I had to taste some panna cotta and tiramisu because I planned to pair them for a dessert special; I was able to have a teaspoon of each, think about the pairing, then have another teaspoon of each to verify my evaluation and give the dessert an ok without being tempted to chow down on the combo.

If your diet is out of control, as mine once was, then this might sound as though I have built up a huge amount of self-discipline. I have not done so. I have developed a habit of seeking out fruit/veggies and whole grains and avoiding added sugars. The combination leaves me with a core diet that is very bulky – making it difficult for me to eat much else. The really tasty stuff that I used to binge on is now more tempting than ever, but I simply cannot fit much of it into me anymore given the breakfast that I eat. On top of that, snack-foods taste so much better to me now that I eat much less of them and find those small portions (3 chips) actually satisfy my cravings.

Monday, December 11, 2017

What Are We Eating? BMI = 29.9

Today as I write, I am no longer obese – if weighed before breakfast. I don’t eat ‘diet meals’ but decided to pick one up and see what was inside. There were a few meals with some whole grains, but most did not promise whole grains. I looked for a brand name that implied the meal would be healthy and help me lose weight.

That isn’t much to eat. The nutritional info on the box says that is 260 calories. I normally shoot for 500 calories at lunch. I separated everything out and weighed the various components.

That is a rather meager serving of rice. If you think you need to cut back on carbs then avoid added sugars. There are 17 grams of added sugar in this meal – that’s 68 calories, or about 26% of the calories in this meal. Without whole grains, and with so many of the calories coming from sugar, this meal isn’t going to satisfy you for long.

I found 38 grams of chicken in this meal, which is a meager but acceptable portion. The biggest let down was the amount of vegetables in the dish. The photo on the box made it seem like there would be a full serving of veggies. The veg, however, weighed in at 45 grams, which is about half a serving, so it would be hard to get 7 or 8 servings of vegetables in you if you tried to survive on these meals.

The worst part of the meal was the 470 mg of sodium. I’m fine with having that much sodium at lunch but only if it comes with two full servings of whole grains and 2 full servings of fruit/veggie. A label on the box suggested balancing my plate – by adding an apple to this meal. I guess that is one way of wiggling out of any claims that this meal suggested that on its own it could provide good nutrition. If I need to buy an apple, though, then why not pick-up a tomato and some whole wheat bread while I’m at it and leave this meal behind?

I can have two servings of whole grain, two servings of fruit/veggie, and a full serving of roast beef for less than the cost of the meal that seemed to imply it would make me skinny. There may be 450 calories lined up there, but that bread has no added sugars, and the meal is balanced. That is how I’ve been losing weight; by eating a balanced diet, not trying to starve myself with gimmicked meals.

Look at the photo below and decide which meal looks healthier to you.

If you think the meal on the left is the healthier one because it is smaller then you haven’t been reading very closely here. The one on the left may be only 260 calories but it lacks whole grains and only provides a half serving of veggie. The one on the right has about 450 calories but provides two servings of whole grain (wild rice), two or three servings of vegetables, and one serving of meat. The one on the right also has no added sugars and very little added salt – although I did add some soya sauce to it before eating.

You don’t need to starve yourself to lose weight. In point of fact, starving yourself of micronutrients will only make it harder to lose weight.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Eat Breakfast! BMI = 30.0

If you think that skipping breakfast leads to eating fewer calories, then you might also think the earth is 6,000 years old. No proven facts are more irrationally refuted than biological evolution and the benefits of a balanced diet. Ironically, both are closely related.

I used to avoid breakfast because it lead to me becoming nauseous when I tried to brush my teeth afterwards. It wasn’t breakfast that made me vomit, though – it was usually my late-night binge-eating that was the culprit. When I skipped breakfast, I had ‘panic hunger’ late in the day that drove me to binge-eat.

The more I starved myself to overcome my obesity, the less control I had over late-night snacks and that only drove my weight up. I was starving myself and over-eating at the same time. My diet was upside down. Now that I’ve inverted my nutrition, I eat my biggest meal in the morning, more produce than meat and more whole grains than diary, and I’ve lost over 100 lbs. I’m one pound away from no longer being obese even though I was obese class III just 11 months ago (BMI of 43).

I have some coworkers who show up fatigued, complaining they can’t sleep and have no energy. I have people who contact me through this blog begging for my ‘secret’ to such great discipline. I had a woman follow me off the bus because we ride at the same time each day, so she noticed how much weight I’ve lost. In each case I say the same thing, “I found this diet online. It’s not a great read, but it is put together by scientists, not celebrities. It’s called the Canada Food Guide.” Each and every time I give a quick breakdown about whole grains, fruits/veggies, reducing sugar, and all the Cliff’s notes, they respond in the same way, “That sounds like a lot of calories, and I don’t have the energy to get up and cook a breakfast like that.”

I know what it means to be tired and just trying to survive. I know what it means to look for a ‘breakfast bar’ that will make the morning easier. I even know what it is like to be tired and see something like the photo above and say, “Well, it is with all the other granola bars, and I do need some energy.” Stop! If you do not see a potential public health crisis with the above photo being taken in the breakfast food aisle, then please go back to the top and read through this entire post again.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Starving Yourself into Obesity: BMI = 30.2

You aren’t eating too much: In truth, you are starving yourself into obesity. Stop counting calories and start counting portions of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. A balanced diet won’t leave you hungry and will keep your metabolism from shutting down. That is what the health professionals have been telling us for years. Listen to what your doctor is saying and stop trying fad diets and so-called ‘diet meals’

I’ve taken off over 100 lbs and I’m just a few lbs away from no longer being obese. If my journey has taught me one thing it is that brand names that incorporate words like nutrition, health, shape, or fitness need to be thoroughly scrutinized. I doctored the photo of the ‘diet meal’ at the top of this post because I don’t want to be sued for using a photo of a real ‘diet meal’.

We are bombarded with catch-phrases that try to grab our attention at the grocery store. You need to look past the catch phrases and learn to evaluate your food for what sort of nutrition is inside. A prepared meal that has less than 300 calories is not going to fill you up. The mg of sodium should never be more than 1.5 times the number of calories. I saw one ‘diet meal’ that had less than 200 calories yet over 500 mg of sodium – there is no way such a meal should be allowed to insinuate, in any way, shape, or form that it is a ‘healthy choice’.

The photo above is my supper this evening. I have a cup of wild rice under that cup and a half of veggies. There is about 75 grams of roast beef and pork sprinkled over the top and a big dollop of Sambal. If I were to guess, I would say there is about 500 calories in that bowl. Calories aren’t really the issue, though. The important thing is that nothing is fried, the starches are whole grain, I have at least 2 servings of veggies, and the meat is just roasted meat – not processed meat – and there are only a couple ounces of it.

When you eat a typical ‘diet meal’ from the frozen-food section of the grocery store, you almost never get two servings of veggies and two servings of whole grains. The salt is usually way too high and there is almost always added sugar. An hour later you are hungry and reaching for some ‘light snack’ that still doesn’t replace the whole grains or veggies you missed out on at lunch. For all that you are eating, you are actually starving yourself of essential nutrients.

Starved of essential nutrients, you compensate by over-eating on empty-calories. Your body has no choice but to store it away – in anticipation that eventually you’ll eat a vegetable that will allow the healing to begin. Instead of adding some veggies or whole grains, though, you feel that you should eat less. The cycle is vicious.

It is insane that an obesity epidemic is plaguing the richest nations in the world and that it is being fanned by an obsession to further starve ourselves of proper nutrition. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have asked me how I’ve lost all this weight, only to be told, “Well, I don’t eat breakfast and I’m not going to start because that would just mean more calories.” It doesn’t matter that I’ve lost over 100 lbs, maybe I’m just an anomaly, sure; but if your doctor is telling you to eat exactly what I’ve been describing in this blog then maybe you should listen to her.